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French Gaming at the GDC Moscone Center San Francisco
Mar 20
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Mar 20
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Paris: A Wild Story Embassy of France - La Maison Française 4101 Reservoir Road, NW - Washington, DC

Alain Supiot

Alain Supiot, is a legal Scholar, the founder of la Maison des sciences de l'Homme Ange Guépin, and co-founder of the Institute for Advanced Studies (l’Institut d’études avancées) in Nantes, which he currently presides over. In 2012, he was elected Chair of the «État social et mondialisation : analyse juridique des solidarités» at the Collège de France. He has presided at the National Council for the Development of Human and Social Sciences and holds a seat at the scientific committee of the International Labour Review as well as the administrative board of the Foundation « Maison des Sciences de l’Homme de Paris ».

Throughout his career he has published 24 books, contributing as well to over 45 other collective works. He has authored numerous books focusing on labor law and social security law (among which: Critique du droit du travail, PUF) and participated in various collective works (Le travail en perspective, LGDJ, 1998; Servir l’intérêt général, PUF). Many of his essays have been published in English including The Spirit of Philadelphia: Social Justice vs. the Total Market (Verso), Homo Juridicus: On the Anthropological Function of the Law (Verso), and Beyond Employment: Changes in Work and the Future of Labour Law in Europe (Oxford University Press). His latest book La Gouvernance par les nombres (Fayard) will be published later this year by Hart Publishing.

About the book: La Gouvernance par les nombres

(Fayard 2015, forthcoming Hart Publishing)

The feeling of “discomfort in civilization” has recently returned in Europe with a new intensity that has not been seen since World War II. The saturation of public space by economic and identity discourse is the symptom of a crisis whose profound causes are institutional. Law, democracy, the state, and all judicial frameworks which we continue to reference have been shaken by the resurgence of the old western dream of harmony founded upon calculation. The reason of power is no longer researched in a sovereign body that transcends society but in the norms inherent to its sound operation. Prospering on these bases is a new normative ideal that aims at an efficient achieving of measurable objectives rather than obeying just laws. Brought by the digital revolution, this new institutional imaginary is one of a society where the law gives way to programming and rules to regulation. However, confronted to the moment when one’s security is not guaranteed by a law that applies equally to all, the people have no other choice but to pledge allegiance to a stronger leader.

More info

For an interview of the author on the text click here.



  • On the Anthropological Function of the Law: The law is how justice is implemented in secular society, but it is not simply a technique to be manipulated at will. It is also the expression of the core beliefs of the West. We must recognize its universalizing, dogmatic nature and become receptive to other interpretations from non-Western cultures to help us avoid the clash of civilizations.

  • The Spirit of Philadelphia : Social Justice versus Total Market: The definition of social justice adopted at Philadelphia in 1944 has not aged in the slightest. It helps us realise that the paths we forge for the future must measure up to the demands of the present. We must therefore leave the flat and horizon-less world of neo-liberal dogma, and regain the use of our ‘five senses’, which have been seriously blunted by thirty years of structural adjustment of human needs to the prescriptions of the financial sector. These ‘five senses’ are the sense of limits, of measure, of action, of responsibility and of solidarity.

  • From the Gosplan to the Governance by Numbers: From a legal perspective, classical economic liberalism and communism had one essential difference: liberalism recognised that the rule of law was necessary for economic harmony, whereas communism used the law as a tool for implementing a harmony based on quantitative computations. The unholy union of capitalism and communism, which Europe and China celebrated towards the end of the 20th century,  accelerated this process of subordinating the Law to Numbers.

  • The Making of a Legal Model of Allegiance: The overturning of the reign of the law in favour of governance by numbers corresponds to the dream of an arithmetically attainable social harmony.  The latest incarnation of this dream in its long history is the digital revolution, to which we all seem enthralled. This cybernetic imaginary leads to an idea of normativity not as legislation but as programming. But with the withering away of the State and the new forms of alienation this Governance by numbers brings with it, a typically feudal legal structure is re-emerging, consisting of networks of allegiance within which each person seeks the protection of someone stronger than him or her, or the support of someone weaker.

  • Subordination and Freedom at Work: "What does ILO constitution mean by 'humane conditions of labor'?" : The First World War contributed two at first sight contradictory things to the history of labor, but which are actually interdependent: the industrial management of "human material"; and the appeal in the Treaty of Versailles for "un régime du travail réellement humain" ("genuinely human work in humane conditions"). How were these two legacies of the Great War articulated together? Is the pursuit of "humane conditions of labor" compatible with "the scientific organisation of work" and the total mobilisation of human capital for a global competitive market? The answer will depend on the interpretation one gives of the notion of "genuinely human work".


Apr 10: University of Illinois

Apr 17/18: Columbia University


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